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Chapter 4

RESCUED FROM THE SEA


Larry paused only long enough to don his oilskins, as it was still raining hard. The coffee was made, but he did not wait for any, though he wanted it very much. But he knew he ought to be on the spot to see all the details of the rescue from the sea, and it was not the first time he, like many other reporters, had gone on duty, and remained so for long stretches, without a meal.

Bailey was some distance down the beach. He had on his yellow suit, which he had donned to go out to the woodshed, some distance from his hut. Larry caught up to him. He was about to speak of the man at the hut when the fisherman cried:

"Something's wrong! They're coming up this way with the apparatus! Must be they couldn't find a good place down there to rig the breeches buoy."

Larry looked down the beach. He saw through the rain and mist a crowd of yellow-suited figures approaching, dragging something along the sand. He looked out to sea and beheld the blotch that represented the doomed vessel. All thought of the man at the hut was, for the time, driven out of his mind.

On came the life savers. They halted about a mile from the hut, and Larry and Bailey ran to join them.

"Did you save any?" called the fisherman to Captain Needam, who was busy directing the rescue.

"Got some in the life-boat early this morning," was the answer. "They took 'em to the lower station. We couldn't get back with the boat. All ready now, men. Dig a hole for the anchor, Nate. Sam, you help plant the mortar. Have to allow a good bit for the wind. My! but she's blowin' great guns and little pistols!"

Larry had his first sight of a rescue by means of the breeches buoy. The apparatus, including a small cannon or mortar, had been brought from the life-saving station on a wagon, pulled by the men along the beach. The first act was to dig a deep hole in the sand, some distance back from the surf. This was to hold the anchor, to which was attached the shore end of the heavy rope, on which, presently, persons from the wreck might be hauled ashore.

Once the anchor was in the hole, and covered with sand, firmly packed down, arrangements were made to get a line to the vessel.

"Put in a heavy charge!" cried Captain Needam. "We'll need lots of powder to get the shot aboard in the teeth of this wind!"

Several men grouped about the brass cannon and rapidly loaded the weapon. Then, instead of a cannon ball, they put in a long, solid piece of iron, shaped like the modern shell, with a pointed nose. To this projectile was attached a long, thin, but very strong line.

"Are they going to fire that at the ship?" asked Larry, who was not very familiar with nautical matters.

"They hope to have it land right on deck, or carry the line over," said Bailey, who paused in his work of helping the men to lay out from the wagon parts of the apparatus.

Larry watched intently. Now and then he gazed out to the ship, a speck of black amid white foam, for the seas were breaking over her.

At the side of the cannon was a box, containing the line, one end of which was fastened to the projectile. The rope was coiled in a peculiar cris-cross manner, to prevent it being tangled as it paid rapidly out when the shot was fired.

"All ready?" called Captain Needam, as he looked at his men.

"Ready, sir," answered George Tucker.

"Put in the primer!" ordered the chief of the life savers. One of the men inserted a percussion fuse in the touchhole of the mortar. The captain grasped a lanyard. The men all stood at attention, waiting to see the effect of the shot.

Captain Needam sighted over the muzzle of the cannon. It was pointed so as to clear the stern of the ship, but this was necessary, as the high wind would carry the projectile to one side.

The arm of the captain stiffened. The lanyard tauted. There was a spark at the breach of the mortar, a sharp crackle as the primer ignited, and then a dull boom as the charge was fired. Through the mist of rain Larry saw a black object shooting out toward the ship. After it trailed the long thin line, like a tail to a kite.

It was scarcely a moment later that there sounded a gun from the ship.

"Good!" cried Captain Needam. "The shot went true!"

"That was the ship signalling that they had the line," explained Bailey, shouting the words in Larry's ear.

From the shore to the ship there now stretched out a long thin rope. Larry had no time to wonder what would happen next.

"Bend on the cable!" cried the captain, and the men quickly attached a thick rope to the line which the cannon-shot had carried aboard the Olivia. This soon began to pay out, as it was hauled in by those on the wrecked vessel. In a short time the heavy cable was all out, and securely fastened to the ship, high enough up so as to clear the rail. Directions how to do this were printed on a board which was hauled in with the rope, and, lest those on a doomed ship might not understand English, the instructions were given in several languages.

"They have it fast! Rig up the shears!" cried the captain.

Once more his men were busy. They set up on the sand two stout wooden pieces, exactly like, a pair of enormous shears. The longer parts, corresponding to the blades, were nearest the ground, while what answered for the handles were several feet in the air, opened in "V" shape.

Through this "V" the heavy cable was passed, the one end being fast to the anchor buried in the sand, and the other being attached to the ship. By moving the shears nearer to the anchor the cable was tightened until it hung taut from shore to ship, a slender bridge on which to save life.

The breeches buoy, a canvas arrangement, shaped like a short pair of trousers, and attached to a frame which ran back and forth on the cable by means of pulleys, had been adjusted. To it were fastened ropes, one being retained by the life savers and one by those on the ship. All was in readiness.

The breeches buoy was now pulled toward the ship, by those aboard hauling on the proper line. It moved along, sliding on the heavy cable, the angry waves below seeming to try to leap up and engulf it, in revenge for being cheated of their prey.

"Look sharp now, men!" cried the captain. "Get ready to take care of the poor souls as they come ashore."

The storm still kept up, and the waves were so high that a second attempt to save some by means of the life-boat, even launching it in the protected cove, had to be given up. But the breeches buoy could be depended on.

A signal from the ship told those on shore that the buoy was loaded with a passenger, and ready to be hauled back. Willing hands pulled on the rope. On it came through the driving rain; on it came above the waves, though not so high but what the spray from the crests wet the rescued one.

"It's a woman!" cried the captain, as he caught sight of the person in the buoy.

"And a baby! Bless my soul!" added Bailey. "She's got a baby in her arms!"

And so it proved; for, wrapped in a shawl, which was tied over her shoulders, so as to keep the water from the tiny form, was an infant clasped tightly to its mother's breast.

"Take her to the station!" cried the captain, as he helped the woman to get out of the canvas holder in which she had ridden safely to shore. "My wife will look after her. Now for the rest, men. There's lots of 'em, and the ship can't last much longer! Lively, men. Every minute means a life!"

"I'll take her to the station!" volunteered Larry, for there was nothing he could do to help now, and he thought he could get a good story of the wreck from the first person rescued.

"Go ahead!" exclaimed the life savers' captain.

The woman, in spite of her terrible experience, had not fainted. Still clasping her baby, she moved through the crowd of men, who cheered her as they set to work again.

"Come with me," said Larry. "We will take care of you!"

"Oh, it is so good to be on land again!" the woman cried. "I am not a coward—but oh, the cruel waves!" and she shuddered.

Victor Appleton

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